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John Giles: Wenger's race is run at Arsenal


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

ARSENE Wenger has run his course at Arsenal.

I hate saying it and my high regard for the man remains but I think the time has come for him to step off the treadmill.

The game against Monaco was, according to Wenger, a chance to display the progress he has made. In the end, it only illustrated the flaw in his philosophy and in a particularly sharp way.

Monaco, player for payer, did not have the amount of technical skill which Wenger's players possess but they had a shape, an attitude and work-rate which gave them the platform they needed to come to London and win.

It is hard to do what they did to Arsenal. It involves hard work and application. I know because I had to do it for Leeds and it required a level commitment and determination which often left me exhausted.

For me, there was no other way of doing it. Skill and ability were all very fine but if you didn't put in the graft, you could never win the platform you needed to allow your more technically gifted players to do their work.

As I've always said, football is a balance struck between when your team has the ball and when your players are hunting it. Wenger has lost sight of that balance.

I still maintain that Wenger is one of true greats of management, up there beside Shankly, Busby, Revie and Nicholson. Sure, he inherited one of the best defences the game has ever seen in England but he made them better as players and trophies flowed into Highbury at a rate which only great managers ever achieve.

The problem for us today is the fact that our standard is Alex Ferguson, a freak of management who I don't think will ever be topped. Placed alongside his record, Wenger's achievements pale by comparison but every manager who ever lived would share the same fate.

So I can't ever subscribe to the view that Wenger was simply lucky to find a group of warrior defenders at Arsenal when he arrived and once they moved on, he was found out.

Since then, he has qualified for the Champions League every year and won the FA Cup. Nothing like Ferguson and considerably less successful then his opening spell with Arsenal but there is context to this and circumstances which must be understood before a proper assessment of Wenger can be made.

Put it this way, when people look back at the Wenger era, I believe that they will see a manager who won just about everything except the Champions League and when he wasn't winning, was putting in place a structure and club ethos which will stand to Arsenal for many years to come.

In fact, like Bob Paisely after Shankly, the next manager into Arsenal will reap the rewards of Wenger's work and I suspect will not be as worried about spending big money when he needs to.

Perhaps that is where he diverged from Ferguson. While Wenger was looking after the club's finances by imposing hard wage scales and refusing to invest money in his squad which he didn't have, Manchester United were spending freely and when the Glazers took over, accumulating debt.

It is a cruel game. Wenger is getting some stick from his own supporters right now because he is not winning trophies and hasn't done for a long time but Arsenal will be financially secure for many years to come as a result of his vision of how a club should be run.

Ferguson walked away from Old Trafford and left behind a weak squad and a mountain of debt yet when the protests came some years back, the fans were after the Glazers - not the manager.

I don't think Ferguson ever gave Manchester United's money a second thought other than to ask for more of it.

More importantly, when he did spend, Ferguson instinctively understood that he needed warriors to help balance his team. He needed and bought men who would run through a door to get the ball.

Wenger had a purist view. He wanted his players to pick the lock and any time he did spend money, he looked for ball-players - even in defence.

This is the fundamental flaw in Wenger's make-up which has cost him over the last nine years and hand on heart, I really don't understand how an intelligent man cannot recognise the balance he achieved when he had Adams, Bould, Keown, Winterburn and Dixon.

It was stark on Wednesday evening watching Monaco chase, harry and hunt for the ball for almost every minute while Arsenal did virtually none of the same.

And at the finish, the sense that this is the last time Wenger will be in charge of Arsenal for a run at the Champions League was strong.

Arsenal fans have been very patient up to now but discontent is growing and I think they are right at this point to think that the time has come for change.